He fell flat onto the very cold pavement. From the car we were sitting in, Meagan saw him land. I immediately jumped out to run over and see if he was okay. Blood was streaming out of his face, but he was lucid and trying to get up. Meagan joined me and we got him seated on the curb. She stayed closed to him, while I called 9-1-1.

I realized I knew him. “Tom!”

“How do you know MY name?”

“Tom, it’s Erinn. Remember me? From The Dale. I was at your sibling’s funeral. You and I, we’ve had a lot of conversations over the years.”

A look of recognition swept over Tom’s face. While we began to chat, a person walking by took notice of the small set of bills falling out of Tom’s hand and jacket. He knelt down and offered to put the money safely in Tom’s pocket, zipping it closed, “you don’t want to lose that! Let me help”. Tom looked incredulously at all of us gathered at his side and said, “what’s going on? I should fall more often!”

The paramedics arrived quickly. They kindly got Tom on a stretcher and explained he would be getting checked out at the local hospital. As they prepared to move him into the ambulance, Tom reached out to try and give me a hug. We had to dissuade him because of the blood, but not before I told him I’d happily receive it the next time I see him.

As Meagan and I crossed the street to get to our drop-in, I was struck by how different it was for Tom to feel cared for. I lamented that he was so shocked by our attention, making that “I should fall more often” comment more than once. Tom has lived life hard. He often has a hood pulled over his face as he walks Queen Street, as though trying to hide. But I know him to be someone with gentle eyes and a broken heart.

I hope beyond hope that the next time we see Tom he might not be injured, that he might notice we notice him whatever his circumstances, and that I’ll be able to receive the hug. Kindness is something we all need. Tom included.